Comstock's magazine 1218 - December 2018 - Page 54

TELEHEALTH internet. Only 43 percent of California’s rural population has internet access equivalent to urban areas, according to Valley Vision, a Sacramento-based nonprofit economic development agen- cy. Sacramento is currently deploying a new high-speed 5G network, which officials claim will boost internet con- nectivity more than ever. In the fore- seeable future, 5G will connect people with limited mobility and access living in urban and suburban areas to, for ex- ample, virtual health clinics in under- served, poorer neighborhoods. Even- You belong here. Digital security concerns don’t. • Cybersecurity • Managed IT / Cloud • Professional Services • Disaster Recovery • IT Infrastructure tually, the technology may help rural areas get better connected, according to city officials. “It is early on in the technology,” says Maria MacGunigal, chief inno- vation officer and IT director for the City of Sacramento. “We have not had enough time to see any strong indica- tors in any one area, but our ambitions are high.” Dr. Peter Yellowlees, a psychiatrist at UC Davis and former president of the American Telemedicine Association, imagines a future where telehealth isn’t just used to administer care, but to facilitate understanding of various conditions as well as educate health professionals. He’s experimented using the online virtual world, Second Life. In his “virtual hallucinations project,” he wanted to educate people on what it feels like to have schizophrenia. A user’s avatar walks through a building and gets bombarded with negative au- dio messages like, “You’re a worthless human being.” Another model sim- ulates a bioterrorism attack to help health professionals figure out how to get antibiotics to thousands of people quickly. Yellowlees sees virtual reality as one of the innovative technologies transforming health care. “It’s unusual stuff, and it’s hard to get grant funding to do things like this, but these platforms could be very good for the future,” Yellowlees says. “Any- one with broadband access and an at- tached device, phone or computer can benefit from these technologies, so this is a great way of leveling the playing field for patients who live in rural areas or underserved communities.” n Russell Nichols is a freelance writer who focuses on technology, culture and men- tal health. His work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe, Governing Magazine and Government Technology. On Twitter @russellnichols. 54 | December 2018